What are the Islamic Solidarity Games and what makes them significant?

Türkiye hosts the 5th edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya. We look at the importance of this mega sporting event.

A spectacular fireworks and light show lit up the Konya sky last night as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games.

The Games, which will be held from August 9 to 18, will see at least 4,000 athletes from 56 Muslim countries in action, competing in 24 different games, vying for a total of 355 medals.

This latest edition, like the previous ones, is organized by the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF), which aims to “support the development of athletes from Islamic geography and increase the culture of brotherhood and solidarity among athletes.”

Turkish athlete Zeliha Agris (right) competes in taekwondo with Morocco's El Bukhti Umaima (left).  — Anatolian Agency

Turkish athlete Zeliha Agris (right) competes in taekwondo with Morocco’s El Bukhti Umaima (left). — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Participation in the event is not only for Muslim athletes. Non-Muslim athletes from any of the member countries present and showcase their talent in Konya, just as they have done in past editions.

Before Turkey, the games were hosted in Saudi Arabia (2005), Iran (2010), Indonesia (2013) and Azerbaijan (2017). However, the Tehran edition had to be discontinued after a dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the opening ceremony of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games at Konya Metropolitan Municipality Stadium.  — Anatolian Agency

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the opening ceremony of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games at Konya Metropolitan Municipality Stadium. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Laying the foundation

The Games were first held in 2005, but the idea was conceived much earlier in 1981 during the Third Islamic Summit convened by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, in Mecca.

The summit carried symbolic weight as it coincided with the advent of the 15th century of the Hijra era. To welcome the new Islamic century, Mecca was specially chosen as the site and the founding session was held within the confines of the Great Mosque.

It was there during the conference that Prince Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz, Head of the General Presidency of Saudi Arabia for Youth Welfare, called for the formation of a specialized organization for the development and organization of sports in OIC member countries.

Four years later, in 1985, the OIC sent invitations to member countries to attend the constituent assembly to found the ISSF in Riyadh, which was reciprocally attended by representatives of 34 National Olympic Committees, paving the way for the federation to come into being. .

Fazli Erilmaz (red) of Turkey celebrates after competing against Kaipanov Nurkozha of Kazakhstan in wrestling during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey.  — Anatolian Agency

Fazli Erilmaz (red) of Turkey celebrates after competing against Kaipanov Nurkozha of Kazakhstan in wrestling during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

The late Prince Faisal’s idea came to fruition 20 years after the creation of the ISSF, when the first Games began in four cities in Saudi Arabia – Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and Taif – with a total of 7,000 athletes from 54 countries showcasing their skills in 13 events.

Such was the magnificence of the event that Alan Hubbard, sports columnist for Independentwrote while covering the event: “Other than the Olympics themselves, no greater multi-sport extravaganza has ever been staged.”

Showing unity

Since 2005, the Games have traveled from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to the banks of the Musi River in Indonesia’s Palembang, to Baku in Azerbaijan and now arrive in the Turkish city of Konya, the resting place of Mevlana Rumi and the former capital of the Seljuk Empire.

Turkish President Erdogan welcomed the participating countries and their athletes and invited all sports lovers, especially the youth, to attend the event.

Hessein Brahim Taha, the OIC Secretary General, attended the opening ceremony and thanked Turkey for hosting the event. “It is important for Islamic countries to hold such events that strengthen intercultural dialogue,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, who heads the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees, also thanked President Erdogan and the Turkish people for hosting the Games.

As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, javelin throwing competitions were held.  Nargizahon Kuchkarova from Uzbekistan also participated in the competitions.  — Anatolian Agency

As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, javelin throwing competitions were held. Nargizahon Kuchkarova from Uzbekistan also participated in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

The wrestling competitions were held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya.  In the races, Khojakov Kerim (green jersey) for Turkmenistan takes on Askarov Adlan from Kazakhstan.  — Anatolian Agency

The wrestling competitions were held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. In the races, Khojakov Kerim (green jersey) for Turkmenistan takes on Askarov Adlan from Kazakhstan. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, athletics competitions were held.  Turkish national Ekaterina Gulieva also participated in the competitions.  — Anatolian Agency

As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, athletics competitions were held. Turkish national Ekaterina Gulieva also participated in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Rhythmic gymnastics competitions were also held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya.  Mahdi Ahmad Kohani from Iran also participated in the competitions.  — Anatolian Agency

Rhythmic gymnastics competitions were also held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. Mahdi Ahmad Kohani from Iran also participated in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Mehmet Kasapoglu, while acknowledging the importance of the Games, spoke about how sports play a role in bringing people together. “International sports activities contribute to the development of brotherhood between countries,” he said.

Writing in Daily Sabah, Kasapoglu sums up the purpose of the Games by saying, “This is far from just an organization that brings athletes together. If anything, games are just an excuse for a greater purpose. The goal is, as with everything we’ve done so far, unity among differences.”

The Konya Games were originally scheduled to be held in 2021, but social restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic forced them to be held a year earlier.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies